Can I Get Workers’ Compensation for COVID-19?
The answer is, maybe. If you were exposed to the coronavirus in the workplace, you should tell your manager or supervisor immediately and you will likely be told to self-quarantine for fourteen days. Whether you are eligible for workers’ compensation for lost wages and medical expenses will likely depend upon the type of work you do.
Who Gets Workers’ Compensation?
Employees who are injured or who contract an illness or disease at the workplace in the course of performing their regular duties will be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
Those who are not eligible for workers’ compensation are independent contractors, most 1099 workers, those who are injured outside of their workplace, those who are injured while deviating from their regular duties.
Workers who are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits will receive compensation for lost wages and medical care.
Medical Professionals Can Get COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation
Because medical professionals must work closely with people, they will likely be exposed to the coronavirus. Their risk of contracting COVID-19 on the job is high, considering that many carriers are asymptomatic. This means that even those medical professionals who do not work directly with COVID-19 patients may be exposed to the coronavirus in the workplace.
Medical professionals who will most likely be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits include:
- Nurse practitioners
- Registered nurses
- Nurse assistants
- Medical transport personnel
- Administration personnel in close contact with patients
Other medical professionals who may be eligible for workers’ compensation for COVID-19 include specialists, such as dentists and chiropractors, and their assistants.
First responders who are required to provide emergency medical assistance may also be eligible for workers’ compensation for COVID-19. These include police, firefighters, and EMTs.
Professions Unable to Follow Social Distancing Protocols May get COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation
First responders may fit into this category, because even if not administering medical aid they are often required to be in close physical contact or proximity to members of the public who may or may not be carrying the coronavirus.
Other professions who may be the abode to successfully claim workers’ compensation because they contracted the coronavirus due to unavoidable contact or close proximity with others include:
- Sports coaches
- Retail personnel
- Restaurant wait staff
- Massage therapists
- Yoga, Pilates, and Martial Arts Instructors
If these workers can show that contact or close proximity to the public was a necessary part of their regular duties, and they contracted the coronavirus at work, they will likely be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
Common Symptoms of COVID-19
Many people experience only mild symptoms. Still, they may be able to transmit the disease to someone who is at risk for the more serious symptoms.
COVID-19 manifests in different ways in different individuals. Some people have no symptoms at all. Others may have any, some, or several of the following symptoms which will appear two- to 14 days after exposure to the coronavirus:
- Dry cough
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or joint pain
- Sore throat
- New loss of taste or smell
Again, someone with COVID-19 may be completely asymptomatic, which means a person may appear healthy but may unknowingly be carrying and transmitting the coronavirus. The universal use of masks while exposed to others will reduce the risk of transmission.
COVID-19 Emergency Warning Signs
Older adults or those with underlying chronic medical conditions such as heart or lung disease or diabetes are more likely to show more severe symptoms, which can result in death. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the following symptoms, call your doctor or the emergency room immediately for instructions:
- Trouble breathing
- Pain or pressure in your chest
- Feeling confused
- Inability to wake or stay awake
- Bluish lips or face
Disability Following COVID-19
Those who are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits due to COVID-19 may also be eligible for temporary partial or total disability payments, or permanent partial or total disability payments, if they are unable to work or only partially able to work due to lingering effects of COVID-19.
This is evolving as individuals begin to recover from COVID-19, but those with a severe case may experience chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD is a chronic inflammation in the lungs that obstructs the flow of oxygen to the rest of the body. Those with COPD often need continuing assistance breathing and they may be on oxygen or even on a ventilator.
If a worker is unable to perform regular duties due to continuing disability after recovering as much as is possible from COVID-19, he or she will likely receive some form of workers’ compensation disability payments.
What to Do If You Were Exposed or Think You Have COVID-19
Do not go to work or school and avoid public places and close contact with others for 14 days. Tell your employer – if you cannot work from home, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits for those 14 days of self-quarantine. During quarantine, monitor your health for fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
If you work in an essential business or critical infrastructure and must go to work as long as you are asymptomatic, your employer will likely have taken the following precautions:
- Prescreening for fever
- Mandated mask use
- Remain at least 6 feet from customers, clients, and co-workers
- Regular and thorough disinfecting of surfaces
- No equipment sharing (headphones, keyboards, mouses, etc)
If these aren’t enough to eliminate the risk of exposure to the coronavirus and you believe you’ve been exposed, tell your employer immediately and stay home.
About the Author
Veronica Baxter is a blogger and legal assistant living and working in the great city of Philadelphia. She frequently works with Larry Pitt, Esq. a busy Philadelphia workers’ compensation lawyer.